A song or songlike poem that tells a story. Most ballads have a regular pattern of rhythm
and use simple language and refrains
as well as other kinds of repetition
. Ballads usually tell sensational stories of tragedy, adventure, betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. Arising in the Middle Ages, folk ballad
s were composed by anonymous singers and were passed down orally from generation to generation before they were written down. Literary ballad
s, on the other hand, are composed and written down by known poets, usually in the style of the older folk ballads.
The typical ballad stanza is a quatrain with the rhyme scheme abcb (although this is by no means universal). The meter is often loosely iambic with four stresses in the first and third lines and three stresses in the second and fourth lines. The number of unstressed syllables in each line may vary.